Everyone’s favorite furry red muppet Elmo learns about melanin and how a person’s skin color is an important part of who they are in a new video rolled out Tuesday. But the clip isn’t from the latest episode of Sesame Street. Rather, it stems from a collection of free family resources for building racial literacy that Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit behind Sesame Street, has rolled out as part of its ongoing commitment to racial justice.
The ABCs of Racial Literacy builds on Sesame Workshop’s ongoing commitment to racial justice with new fun new videos, songs, activities, and talking points — all of which are designed to support parents in having open, age-appropriate conversations about race with their children.
“At Sesame Workshop, we look at every issue through the lens of a child,” Sesame Workshop Senior Vice President Dr. Jeanette Betancourt said in a press release promoting the nonprofit’s newest tools . “Children are not colorblind — not only do they first notice differences in race in infancy, but they also start forming their own sense of identity at a very young age.”
Each resource — whether it’s a video clip, song, coloring activity, or conversation starter — is designed to help parents teach children how to recognize and respond to racism when they encounter it and instill in them an ability to value and celebrate all identities, including their own. “By encouraging these much-needed conversations through Coming Together, we can help children build a positive sense of identity and value the identities of others,” Betancourt said.
Along with learning about melanin alongside Elmo, children will also explore what it means to be Black or what it means to have Mexican heritage with real-life families. In Giant, a new music video featuring Sesame Street muppets, children can learn to be “strong in their skin” as they embrace and celebrate the unique parts of their cultures, identities, and physical appearance. In another clip, expected to roll out soon, they’ll explore how to handle a racist incident with Rosita and her mom.
Each resource comes with helpful guidance for parents, such as reflective questions about how their family is, or would like to be, handling conversations about skin color and cultural heritage as well as suggested ways parents might use the video or activity to start just such a conversation. All of the resources are completely free and available in both English and Spanish.
Like Sesame Workshop’s ongoing Coming Together initiative for racial justice, The ABCs of Racial Literacy is centered around a racial justice education curriculum suitable for young children that was developed following extensive research and consultations with experts.
And although Sesame Workshop has always been committed to promoting equity, inclusion, diversity, and kindness, those themes are needed now more than ever. Recent research from Stop AAPI Hate found racist hate crimes targeting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are on the rise, with nearly 3,800 incidents being reported from mid-March 2020 to February 2021.
Sadly, today’s announcement comes at a time of racial and social discord when many families are in need of support in talking to their children about racism,” Sesame Workshop Executive Vice President of Creative and Production Kay Wilson Stallings said. “As a trusted source for families, we have a responsibility to speak out for racial justice and empower families to have conversations about race and identity with their children at a young age. The work to dismantle racism begins by helping children understand what racism is and how it hurts and impacts people.”